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Connecting to IRC

What is IRC?

IRC stands for 'internet relay chat'. It's a way to talk to people online, like MSN messenger or AIM. There are a couple of differences in how it works, though

First, you don't need a dedicated program! Compsoc provide an online interface to access IRC which supports all standard functions. Standalone programs can do a bit more and are easily available, as explained later in this document.

Next, you don't talk to people, you join conversations. That means that instead of choosing someone from your friends list to talk to, you join a 'channel'. Anyone can join one, and when you send out some text the whole channel can see it. Anyone can start a channel up, with some influence on privacy settings etc. You can also start a separate conversation with any single person. Room names are always preceded by a '#'.

When you first start up an irc client, you have to choose a server to connect to that everyone in the rooms is connected to. This is really easy, and Compsoc provides its own dedicated server accessible at irc.green-dragon.org. If you use the web interface, you don't even have to set this up.

The only thing you do need to choose is a nickname, your displayed username. This can basically be anything, from a random noun or verb to your own name. It's just an identifier, and can easily be changed at any time.

Accessing IRC

The quickest, easiest way to quickly get talking is via Compsoc's web client for IRC.

The web client is quick and easy to use, but it lacks any sort of advanced features. Luckily there are loads of IRC programs available, you might even have one already! If you have any problems using any of them, just hop onto the web IRC interface and ask for help.

See the XChat section below for a great client that will work on pretty much any computer.

If you use Firefox, try the Chatzilla section.

To combine IRC with your other instant messaging, you might want to have a look at the all purpose client Pidgin.

For a client that can be run on the Compsoc server, try irssi. This is harder to use (it is run from a terminal), but may be an interesting and useful technical challenge.

Compsoc's Web Interface

The easiest and fastest way to quickly get straight onto IRC is with Compsoc's web interface. This can be accessed from http://compsoc.dur.ac.uk/~cgiirc/, where you just have to click 'start' and follow the instructions.

<CGI:IRC Login Screen

Just choose a nickname and click 'login', easy as. You have to set the 'Realname' option to match it.

The other option is to change the 'Channel' you want to join. Most of the channels on the Compsoc network are a bit specialised, so #compsoc is a good starting point to say hello and meet most of the regulars.

Once you click 'Login', that's basically it. You've just joined #compsoc; why not say hello?

<Example screenshot of what the CGI:IRC client should look like

You'll have a box to input text at the bottom of the screen, with all the sent messages above it. To the right is the list of people currently listening to #compsoc. There are usually people happy for a chat, so just dive in!

If you're feeling extra adventurous, try looking at some more advanced functions. For instance, the `/list' command will give you a list of channels that people are currently in. The main interesting ones on this network are #compsoc, #duwas (the Durham Whisky Appreciation Society) and #go (the channel for Durham Go Club). The other channels aren't directly affiliated with specific Durham societies.

XChat

XChat is a popular, easy to use IRC client for Windows or Linux. If you want to give it a try before installing it, you can access it from any ITS computer.

If you're using Windows, go to the XChat website to download XChat. You can then install it just like any other program. This version is shareware, and can only be used free for 30 days. For a completely (and permanently) free version, visit http://www.silverex.org/download/

If you're using Linux, XChat is in the repositories for all of the popular distros. Just install it as usual with your favourite package manager.

When you actually open XChat, you'll be confronted with the server list window. This is a big list of preconfigured server address including most of the popular servers around. Unfortunately it doesn't include the Compsoc network, but this is easy to add.

<XChat's preset servers, which it will show you when you start it up <The XChat tool for connecting to a new server

Choose whatever you like for your 'Nick name', 'User name' and 'Real name'. You have to make all three the identical, though! If you don't, an error may occasionally occur with the Compsoc network.

Next, you'll need to add 'irc.green-dragon.org' to your server list. Click 'Add', and name the new server 'Compsoc'. Next, highlight it and choose 'Edit...' to bring up the server editing window.

The above figure (on the right) includes all the information you need to put in to connect to the #compsoc channel. Just copy across the information and click 'Close', then 'Connect' and you'll join the #compsoc room on the compsoc server. If you can't see the image, it should be sufficient to know that you must 'Add' the 'irc.green-dragon.org' server, and automatically connect to the '#compsoc' channel.

The window you see is just like any instant messaging client. You can send messages using the box at the bottom of the window, view sent messages above this, and view people connected to the channel using the list to the right.

You'll notice some improvements over the web interface straight away. For a start, XChat includes much better support for things like text highlighting. Different text will appear in different colours representing its purpose, from green messages that people have joined the channel to red messages directed specifically at you.

This is as far as you need to go to be able to use XChat. Playing around with the various menu options will let you customise things to just how you want them. All of your settings will be remembered in your next sessions, so there's no need to re-enter your nicks etc.

Chatzilla

Chatzilla is an IRC client in the form of an extension to the Mozilla Firefox web browser. To install the extension, just go to the firefox addons database and search for 'chatzilla'. The extension will be at the top of the list. Click the big green 'Install Now' button, and Firefox will do the rest.

When the download has finished, restart Firefox to complete the install. You can then access Chatzilla via Tools>Chatzilla.

The Chatzilla window is a little confusing, but it's easy to get started. First, you can set your nick using the command '/nick compsoccer', where 'compsoccer' is your desired nickname.

Next, type '/server irc.green-dragon.org' to access the Compsoc network in a new tab. '/join #compsoc' will then join the Compsoc channel.

<The ChatZilla window when connected to the CompSoc server

All Chatzilla preferences can be changed via the menus at the top (such as to set your nick and channels automatically whenever Chatzilla loads). You can also access some common irc functions, such as a list of available channels to join.

Pidgin

Pidgin is an instant messaging client supporting lots of protocols, including MSN, AIM, and of course IRC. It's user interface is a little different again to that of both XChat and Chatzilla.

<

irssi

Irssi is a slightly harder to use client, and is entirely text based (it can be run in a command line). Brief instructions are provided here because it can be run easily from the Compsoc server. If you are a Compsoc member, see Using your Compsoc account for instructions on how to access the server.

The instructions here are for a Linux system (such as Compsoc's server), but irssi is also available for Windows at http://irssi.org/ .

Irssi may be installed on most Linux systems simply by downloading from repositories with a normal package manager.

Once irssi is installed, run the command 'irssi' in a terminal window. When connected to the Compsoc server, you can simply type the command. See the images below for an idea of what irssi should look like.

Once irssi is running, type the following commands to access the Compsoc channel:

/server irc.green-dragon.org
/nick compsoccer
/join #compsoc

Here, 'compsoccer' should be replaced by your desired nickname.

<The irssi screen displayed immediately upon running the program

<The irssi screen after connecting to the #compsoc channel


To quit irssi, use:

/quit
[edit]

Notes for those that care

First thing's first, one or two of the statements in this document are a bit slimmed down to make them easy to follow. The Compsoc IRC network actually includes several servers, and irc.green-dragon.org is an external one. If you're within the University network you can use the dedicated Compsoc server at compsoc.dur.ac.uk.

The other main inaccuracy is the statement that channel names are preceded by '#'. This is not necessarily true, server specific channels may be preceded by '&'. These are unusual, though.

Next, the IRC clients suggested here are far from the only ones available. You might try the Opera web browser's offering, or test the IRC capabilities of one of the more obscure instant messaging clients. Trillian is popular for Windows users, or Kopete for Linux.

Above all, your best bet is to ask the people on #compsoc! People there will be happy to help with any problems or questions you might have.

[edit]

General IRC Server Information

Server: irc.green-dragon.org
Channels:
#compsoc for the Computing Society
#go for Durham Go Club
#physics for physics
#duwas for Durham University Whisky Appreciation Society

Last edit: Wed 13th Aug, 01:39 p.m.

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